December 18th, 2014 | Sterling

Coping With The Downside Of Ban The Box

Coping With The Downside Of Ban The Box

Ban the box is an advocacy campaign that aims to help job applicants with criminal records successfully reintegrate into society by giving them an equal chance at gaining employment. It aims to eliminate questions about criminal history from the initial employment application to reduce prejudice against convicted criminals in the hiring process. These types of questions can be asked once the applicant moves forward in the recruiting process.

It is believed that employment has the most meaningful impact on reducing recidivism among ex-offenders. The hope is that ban the box legislation will increase employment rates among those recently released from prison and in turn, reduce crime rates. Many states and municipalities have adopted ban the box legislation, leaving employers to struggle with the task of delicately balancing compliance with risk mitigation.

But the impact of ban the box isn’t entirely positive. Employers in Columbia, Missouri are voicing their concerns over a “ban the box” proposal that would significantly affect their hiring process. The majority of employers were not opposed to removing questions about past criminal history from their job applications. But they did take exception to the restrictions that would be imposed regarding when background checks can be conducted. The proposal would prevent Columbia employers from conducting background checks until after a conditional offer of employment is extended to the applicant.

Pushing background checks into the end stages of the hiring process could be problematic for many employers. The common worry is that by the time the background check is completed, significant hiring costs will have already been incurred. If a serious offense is revealed through a background check that would normally disqualify the applicant from employment, the employer is not only stuck bearing the financial burden of rescinding the offer, but their second or third choice applicants may have since found other jobs. Cost-per-hire varies by company, but is estimated to be anywhere from $1,062 to $5,582, which an employer would incur twice if they are forced to withdraw an offer and recruit someone else to fill the position.

Some believe that it is more detrimental to avoid the topic of the existence of a criminal record as the hiring manager may feel deceived after learning about an offense. Instead, they argue that it would be more logical to deal with any criminal convictions up front and give the applicant an opportunity to explain the circumstances surrounding the offense. In fact, a 2007 study, “The Effect of Criminal Background Checks on Hiring Ex-Offenders” demonstrated that employers who voluntarily conducted criminal record checks hired an equivalent number of ex-offenders as those who did not conduct background checks.

Regardless of whether you support or oppose the ban the box movement, there are solutions available to employers to help speed up the screening process and alleviate some of their concerns. One solution for employers struggling with ban the box impositions is to use a third party background screening provider. Professional background screening providers have the technology and expertise to quickly turnaround background checks.

SterlingBackcheck’s CourtDirect is a proprietary technology that automates most criminal record checks through integrations with 2,000 jurisdictions that have traditionally been conducted manually by court runners. CourtDirect offers clients the fastest turnaround time and most accurate criminal record checks in the industry. By speeding up the background checking process with CourtDirect, the financial impact of ban the box and similar legislation on employers is minimized.


This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.